Wifi-6 goes toe-to-toe with 5G claims

The Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) is championing the results of a wifi-6 trial with Mettis Aerospace as proof the technology can be a viable alternative to 5G.

Wifi has largely been ignored in recent months as the 5G euphoria hits deafening levels, though the WBA is keen to ensure this technology can grab a slice of the Industry 4.0 pie with this trial.

Taking place in the 27-acre Mettis Aerospace facility in the West Midlands, the WBA has touted several use cases, including 4K streaming from a webcam mounted on machinery within the factory and augmented reality testing of machinery, suggesting speeds of 700 Mbps as well as latency below 6 ms.

“The completion of this initial phase marks a significant milestone for the adoption of wifi-6,” said WBA CEO, Tiago Rodrigues. “The Mettis facility is an especially challenging environment for wireless communications with furnaces, presses and heat, a lot of moving heavy machinery and the presence of dust and in-air particulates.

“Nevertheless, the field tests in this highly charged atmosphere have proven that wifi-6 technology works well and can play a vital role within the industrial enterprise and IoT ecosystem. If wifi-6 can deliver highly reliable, high quality and high bandwidth communications in this type of factory environment, then it can deliver it almost anywhere.”

With mobile communications stealing much of the thunder in recent years, wifi has become an increasing unpopular technology during conference presentations. During a London event in recent weeks, Shell IT CTO & VP TaCIT Architecture Johan Krebbers suggested the team would not consider wifi as an option during Industry 4.0 trials due to the time and cost implications. According to Krebbers, it simply isn’t worth it.

That said, this trial might give decision-makers something new to think about.

“The wifi-6 infrastructure installed as part of the trials has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, reliable connectivity and consistent coverage across the target area,” said Dave Green, Head of IT at Mettis Aerospace.

“We are seeing immediate benefits in terms of the data we’re now able to collect and use. Moving forward, we will be able to vastly increase the data we collect from devices across our business, enhancing our manufacturing processes, reducing variability and increasing productivity.”

The WBA claims the trial proves wifi-6 is able to provide total connectivity across the factory floor and enable improved synchronization of factory floor machinery and equipment with centralized monitoring and control systems. As part of the trial Cisco provided 11 Catalyst 9100 access points, iBwave undertook a site survey of the manufacturing floor, while Broadcom and Intel provided the chipsets.

While 5G is dominating all the headlines for the moment, wifi might still have a place in the industry for those companies who are more risk-adverse. Trials such as this might well provide confidence to those who avoid the unknown perils of 5G technologies.

Q&A with Elisabetta Romano, CTO at TIM

Elisabetta Romano is Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for TIM and is responsible for ensuring TIM’s technological innovation, the evolution of the networks, and for the Information Technology required to support TIM’s digitization process at Group level. The 5G World team interviewed Elisabetta ahead of the show to gain a sneak peek for what we can expect at our upcoming conference.

TIM invested 2.39 billion euros on 5G spectrum in late 2018 for expansion of mobile network. Why has TIM invested heavily on spectrum? What monetisation opportunities does TIM expect from 5G?

Spectrum is one of the key assets for telco operators.  Through such investment, TIM has secured both the best coverage – with the 700 MHz bandwidth – and the highest speeds through higher bandwidths such as the 3.6 GHz and the 28 GHz, necessary to provide specific services. Business and consumer use cases are increasing every day: constantly growing mobile traffic, increasing demand of dedicated networks for industry automation, and we are seeing the first requirements for guided vehicles both in private spaces or in smart cities.

‘TIM has done a lot of tests on SMART cities, industry 4.0, entertainment, public safety etc sectors’

What new (5G) enterprise services should we expect TIM to bring to market, and why?

Since the beginning of the trials, we have had more than 70 partners in Turin, San Marino, Bari and Matera, including private big and small enterprises, P.A., universities and research centres. I believe that the industrial sector will have the greatest demand first. IoT services, particularly security and video surveillance, will also benefit from the upcoming development of 5G.

What do you expect the consumer pick up of 5G products and services will be? What services should TIM consumers expect?

Of course, ultra-broadband Internet access will be one of the key services.  As we know, video is one of the main traffic drivers, video services like our TIMVISION are growing, also sports events are growing in terms of consumption via the Internet, particularly when on the move.  This said, the availability of new devices and particularly of 5G smartphones is crucial for the consumer segment.

What are the main (market, technology, business, regulatory or other) challenges in achieving 5G rollout and what needs to be done to further unlock innovation in the telecoms industry (globally, in Europe or Italy)?

5G is a ground-breaking technology, which will need several factors being coordinated in order to have a quick deployment. The regulatory framework in Italy is challenging, for example, because of very low EMC limits in comparison to other European countries. Also, the financial commitment is demanding, first to acquire the spectrum, then to roll out the technology, which means that the operators will need to find innovative approaches to infrastructure development.  Then there are the new devices that need to be tested.  Last but not least, 5G demands a new approach in developing the network function and core network: cloud-native microservice based architecture with strong API exposure to enable a rich ecosystem of developers and business partners, is by itself a challenging effort.

You will be delivering a Keynote speech at the 5G World (11-13 June 2019, Excel, London). Could you give us a sneak peek of what our audience should expect to hear from you and what are you looking forward to at the Forum?

I don’t want to reveal too much. I can tell you I will describe our trial experience and how we are working to make 5G real a business development platform, with a new cloud-native architecture that leverages AI and extensive API for both internal to the company and external, open ecosystem development.

It’s your chance to hear from Elisabetta Romano directly at 5G World 2019 which is taking place on 11-13 June, at the ExCeL in London. Register now as a free visitor to join us at the largest 5G show featuring 30+ hours of free content delivered by CxO telco executives like Elisabetta

Edge Computing: What industrial enterprises want from service providers

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Charlie Osborne of Edge Computing Congress looks at the role edge computing has to play in Industry 4.0.

The adoption of edge computing is going to become key for industrial companies seeking to implement modern cost-saving measures, 5G, and make the transition to Industry 4.0.

The manufacturing sector is no longer centred around isolated equipment and manual maintenance. Instead, businesses have the potential to thrive due to data.

Industrial companies are now operating on a global scale and have IIoT devices, software, and services at their disposal to transform data points into information which can improve both operational efficiency and the bottom line.

Industrial players and companies at large are no longer forced to send their data to one area in-house or to the cloud for analysis, which requires high levels of expenditure and can cause latency and security challenges.

Instead, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, and cloud services, empowered by edge computing, offer a scalable way to streamline traffic flows and process data in real-time close to the source, increasing the efficiency of data processing, reducing latency, initiating bandwidth savings, and more.

IoT micro data centres used by edge computing will become even more important in the future with the emergence of 5G networks.

Despite predictions that the enterprise will spend over £1 trillion on IoT networks, devices, and management systems by 2020, the industrial sector is yet to realize the full potential of edge computing.

Edge computing has the potential to disrupt the industrial sector more than most. Companies are making the move towards Industry 4.0 but recent research suggests that only a quarter of industrial firms feel they have a sufficient understanding of how digital processes can improve their business.

Only three percent of data points gathered by today’s industrial IoT systems are utilized which leaves 97 percent of otherwise actionable data floating in the wind.

Service providers have a key role to place in the adoption of edge computing. As enterprise players lean towards this next-generation technology in order to improve operational efficiency and to tap into the benefits of Big Data and IoT, service providers cannot afford to be left behind.

The enterprise expects service providers to innovate in order to push intelligence and computing out to the edge, meeting both the technological and data challenges of modern manufacturing, as well as offer ways to future-proof industrial processes.

Whether or not industry players know it yet, edge computing will become a necessity in the coming years to facilitate the transfer and analysis of large volumes of data and to control industrial and operational processes making the shift from legacy systems to Industry 4.0.

Companies offering such services need to establish a strategic plan to take advantage of what edge computing offers. The deployment of edge computing will become a crucial component of future industries, but many companies need to understand where to start.

Service providers must understand what industrial players expect, the challenges ahead, and how edge computing can be implemented as a justifiable investment which benefits the enterprise.

For more information and to learn what is wanted, needed and expected from edge computing service provider download our recent report.

 

Edge Computing Congress is returning to the German capital next month. Register to attend this event for the opportunity to meet the entire edge ecosystem and discover how cloud computing, 5G and IoT connected services can provide seamless connections at the network edge.